Monday, 05 January 2015 10:50

The Effect of Internet Marketing on the Skin Care Industry

Written by   Judith Ferber, founder of Judy Ferber Hungarian Skin Care

What do you think of when you hear the word Groupon? Do you cringe or ask questions? One of my colleagues had a horrified look on her face as I began to explain Internet marketing to her. She exploded, "Groupon? Working for nothing for months?" "There are benefits," I said sheepishly. She groaned and the conversation hit an uncomfortable stop.

The truth is, I was not sure myself what to expect when I accepted a suggestion to offer my services on Goupon's website. Many of us have been lucky to maintain a successful skin care business for many years. We also suffered from the recent downturn of the economy and the ravaging effects of aging clientele.

I was one of many aestheticians who were searching for marketing options for my business. In case you are not familiar with Groupon, it was launched in 2008 as an Internet marketing service offering a deal of the day. The deals, which are deeply discounted, are being offered by hundreds of companies and posted on its website. The offers are then e-mailed to thousands of members daily.

Anyone can sell their services on the website as long as the merchant has an active website. Groupon sets the price for the service. They take 45 percent of the original price; the merchant receives half of that, which is deposited in their checking account once a month.

It took me a while to understand the reality of this venture and earning only $20 after each client. I kept telling myself that it was not about the money. Yet, as to my livelihood, it was. I reluctantly signed a six-month contract. When I first opened my skin care business, I put advertisements in local newspapers, offering my services with a 10- to 20-percent discount.

Is there a difference between Internet marketing and print media? Yes, there is, but it is subtle. When you place an advertisement in a magazine or any local newspaper, prospective clients will come with the offer and often become regular clients. However, when you sign up with Goupon, for example, people who buy spa services are not necessarily looking to be your client. Several reasons are in play.

One is the price of the treatment. Then the choices are being offered through the myriad of marketing services. The final and most important point, the expertise of the aestheticians are not valued by the clients, most of whom lack knowledge of what skin care is about.

Internet marketing such as Groupon, Living Social, Amazon, and many more have flooded the skin care market with inexpensive vouchers. It is true that a person can only buy service one at a time from a business; but since there are hundreds who advertise skin care services, it will take a long time before anyone runs out.

The statistic has proven that return business is minimal. Groupon, in fact, has faced strong criticism of destroying some service businesses. In spite all this knowledge, cosmetic services (facials, waxing, eyelash extensions) are thriving on the websites. I signed up for six months with 70 clients. The men and women who bought my services came from all economic and social strata of society. There were those who never had a facial, but because it was offered for such a low price and kind of chic (I was told), they felt privileged to get the service.

And then there was the 20-something age demographic looking for anti-aging treatments. I called them the Sephora beauty enthusiasts armed with "knowledge" about how to best preserve their youthful complexions. They used various peeling agents, serums, and occasionally Botox and fillers would also be added to the mix.

I have had some unusual clients show up with Internet deals. A man walked in the beauty shop with his body tattooed from head to toe – his arms, his legs, all fingers, and one side of his neck – wearing rings on all 10 fingers, earrings, and a metal insert on the side of his nose. He wore three quarter-length pants with sneakers and was holding a bright-yellow McDonald drink in one hand and a gift certificate in the other for the Judy Ferber Hungarian Skin Care. It was so unusual that I was stunned and left speechless upon meeting him. Although he was not my typical client, during our session I learned how important skin care was to him and that first impressions are not always what we think they are. I really liked him.

There are a great many young women who came to see me who had definite ideas about their skin care routine. They learned from magazine articles or Internet promotions. Yet, many any of them were outright harmful for their skin.

Another client who purchased three facials (sold in a package with an even lower rate), was in her late 30s with a light, freckled complexion. She explained why she chose to use three different types of skin-peeling products on her skin due to the advice of magazine articles and skin care professionals she visited.

When she returned for her second facial, her face was completely inflamed. She was in a panic and could not imagine what had happened. I, on the other hand, was not surprised. It was a matter of time. Her skin could not take the abuse anymore. I managed to calm her skin down and advised another skin care regimen for her. This was a successful moment. When it became clear that I might not have many return clients, I put on my educator hat.

With my extensive educational background in skin care, I recognized certain desperation with these women wanting to fit in. They thought that by knowing the right words for their products, they knew the products themselves. Many had little to no experience in skin care, but their friends introduced them to the world of Groupon.

By choosing to be part of it, I gently followed a thread, which ultimately led me to educate what skin care really is. As their eyes opened more and more, their appreciation for the knowledge followed. Was Groupon the right promotion for me? Not completely. But it turned out to be valuable on many levels.

We tend to meet clients with similar backgrounds because our business depends on personal referral. When we choose to be part of the Internet marketing business, we are exposed to a part of the world we would never have entered. And what treasure trove it could be! I have so appreciated the wonderful comments people left on Yelp or the Groupon website about how they felt about the experience. It was not about the $20 anymore.

Internet marketing could be so much more than just wanting to build clientele. Groupon and all the other websites are not for everyone. Would I recommend it to my colleagues? Absolutely.

When you are ready to join Groupon, a representative will guide you through the process of setting up your account with the desired treatment options. That is the time to voice all your concerns about the program. The representatives are knowledgeable and instrumental to your success.

Since Groupon's rate for their services is very low, offsetting the "sticker shock," I suggest offering facial series for prospective clients. Internet marketing can be gratifying for your business when your eyes and arms are wide open.

FerberJudy Ferber is a third generation aesthetician from Hungary in private practice for over 30 years. Over the past number of years, Ferber has been invited to speak to local graduate aesthetician students in a number of schools in the Los Angeles area. She has continued teaching, giving popular classes at Adult school in Beverly Hills such as "10 Steps to have Great Skin" and conducting post-graduate classes for newly licensed aestheticians in her skin care salon. Educating students and clients has remained her main focus.

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